Curating Music History: Agnus Dei from Faure Reqiuem

The Requiem by Gabriel Faure (1845 – 1924) is one of the terms from the French Romantic school of music composition. The Requiem is the setting to music of the text from the Latin Mass for the Dead, with perhaps the most famous setting being the one that was composed (incompletely) by Mozart.

Unlike many other compositions of the Requiem by other composers, this setting by Faure was not commissioned, nor was it written with any particular person in mind. It was supposed that Faure could have written it for the death of on of his parents, but Faure later refuted it saying:

> My Requiem wasn’t written for anything – for pleasure, if I may call it that!


The piece itself was composed in a parts over many years, with the first music being completed in 1877 and with the finished orchestral score being finalised in 1900. The Requiem really does appear to have been a labour of love which was performed at his own funeral.

> It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. The music of Gounod has been criticised for its inclination towards human tenderness. But his nature predisposed him to feel this way: religious emotion took this form inside him. Is it not necessary to accept the artist’s nature? As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different


The composition features an incredible setting of 2 violas, 2 celli, bass and organ. This with no treble instruments, there is a sonority and deepness of sound that suits the sombre character of the text.

I have always adored this piece, but I never play it any more, as I am now a specialist in the wrong era of music. It is one pieces that miss the most…

This particular movement (Agnus Dei) is one of the most beautiful settings, with the violas and cell intertwining and providing a soft rolling background for the elegantly simple tenor solo. It is a piece that always brings a tear to my eye… Even when I was performing it…,



> Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.

### Translation

> Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them eternal rest.


The performers

The Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields is one of the premier chamber orchestras from London. I love very much most of their performances, but for their Baroque and Classical interpretations, I do not agree with their musical choices.

However, for this Faure, they are really in their element and they provide a great and moving rendition of this piece.


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